Nautilus Project follow-up - Design Review

Design Review Committee Lavishes Praise on the Project
Monday, October 12, 2015

On Wednesday, Sept. 30th, the Design Review Committee of the Oakland Planning Commission held a public hearing on the Nautilus Group's large mixed-use project.  The project is located on Telegraph Avenue, spanning the block between 51st Street and Claremont Ave.  It is six stories high along Telegragh Ave. and 51st Street, dropping to four stories along Clarke Street, where it meets the border of Rockridge's residential area.

The Committee heard from several representatives of Nautilus, who presented the project's various aspects, focusing on its rooftop commercial garden, the first floor retail, including a 30,000 sq. ft. grocery store (although no specific tenant was identified) and the extension of the FROG Park walkway from Clarke Street through to Telegraph Ave.  The presentation also emphasized the bike-friendly aspect of the project, with over 500 bicycle parking spaces provided (2 per unit, plus almost another 100).  Because the project's 204 residential units include 17 units of "Section 8" low income housing, under state law it qualifies for a mandatory 35% density "bonus" beyond the normal zoning limit of 152 units.

While some nearby neighbors expressed trepidation about the project's size and potential traffic and shadowing impacts, a majority of those testifying (including many bicycling advocates) praised the project as an appropriately dense project well-suited to its location.  The Committee members, particularly landscape architect Chris Patillo, were also lavish with their praise of the project, raising only minor concerns and suggestions about architectural details.

Nautilus has asked that the project be exempted from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), as well as asking for variances for exceeding the 60 foot height limit [rooftop greenhouses would reach 90 feet in height], a 50% parking reduction (from 204 residential spaces to 102] and eliminating an on-site loading dock for the grocery store [deliveries would be made from vehicles parked in a 51st Street curbside loading zone].  Those decisions are still pending, with final decisions to be made by the full Planning Commission.  They also await completion of traffic and shadowing studies now in progress.  However, from the meeting, it appeared the project was likely to have at least three votes in its favor on the seven-member Commission.